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EA: The Human Story [Nov. 10th, 2004|12:01 am]
My significant other works for Electronic Arts, and I'm what you might call a disgruntled spouse.

EA's bright and shiny new corporate trademark is "Challenge Everything." Where this applies is not exactly clear. Churning out one licensed football game after another doesn't sound like challenging much of anything to me; it sounds like a money farm. To any EA executive that happens to read this, I have a good challenge for you: how about safe and sane labor practices for the people on whose backs you walk for your millions?

I am retaining some anonymity here because I have no illusions about what the consequences would be for my family if I was explicit. However, I also feel no impetus to shy away from sharing our story, because I know that it is too common to stick out among those of the thousands of engineers, artists, and designers that EA employs.

Our adventures with Electronic Arts began less than a year ago. The small game studio that my partner worked for collapsed as a result of foul play on the part of a big publisher -- another common story. Electronic Arts offered a job, the salary was right and the benefits were good, so my SO took it. I remember that they asked him in one of the interviews: "how do you feel about working long hours?" It's just a part of the game industry -- few studios can avoid a crunch as deadlines loom, so we thought nothing of it. When asked for specifics about what "working long hours" meant, the interviewers coughed and glossed on to the next question; now we know why.

Within weeks production had accelerated into a 'mild' crunch: eight hours six days a week. Not bad. Months remained until any real crunch would start, and the team was told that this "pre-crunch" was to prevent a big crunch toward the end; at this point any other need for a crunch seemed unlikely, as the project was dead on schedule. I don't know how many of the developers bought EA's explanation for the extended hours; we were new and naive so we did. The producers even set a deadline; they gave a specific date for the end of the crunch, which was still months away from the title's shipping date, so it seemed safe. That date came and went. And went, and went. When the next news came it was not about a reprieve; it was another acceleration: twelve hours six days a week, 9am to 10pm.

Weeks passed. Again the producers had given a termination date on this crunch that again they failed. Throughout this period the project remained on schedule. The long hours started to take its toll on the team; people grew irritable and some started to get ill. People dropped out in droves for a couple of days at a time, but then the team seemed to reach equilibrium again and they plowed ahead. The managers stopped even talking about a day when the hours would go back to normal.

Now, it seems, is the "real" crunch, the one that the producers of this title so wisely prepared their team for by running them into the ground ahead of time. The current mandatory hours are 9am to 10pm -- seven days a week -- with the occasional Saturday evening off for good behavior (at 6:30pm). This averages out to an eighty-five hour work week. Complaints that these once more extended hours combined with the team's existing fatigue would result in a greater number of mistakes made and an even greater amount of wasted energy were ignored.

The stress is taking its toll. After a certain number of hours spent working the eyes start to lose focus; after a certain number of weeks with only one day off fatigue starts to accrue and accumulate exponentially. There is a reason why there are two days in a weekend -- bad things happen to one's physical, emotional, and mental health if these days are cut short. The team is rapidly beginning to introduce as many flaws as they are removing.

And the kicker: for the honor of this treatment EA salaried employees receive a) no overtime; b) no compensation time! ('comp' time is the equalization of time off for overtime -- any hours spent during a crunch accrue into days off after the product has shipped); c) no additional sick or vacation leave. The time just goes away. Additionally, EA recently announced that, although in the past they have offered essentially a type of comp time in the form of a few weeks off at the end of a project, they no longer wish to do this, and employees shouldn't expect it. Further, since the production of various games is scattered, there was a concern on the part of the employees that developers would leave one crunch only to join another. EA's response was that they would attempt to minimize this, but would make no guarantees. This is unthinkable; they are pushing the team to individual physical health limits, and literally giving them nothing for it. Comp time is a staple in this industry, but EA as a corporation wishes to "minimize" this reprieve. One would think that the proper way to minimize comp time is to avoid crunch, but this brutal crunch has been on for months, and nary a whisper about any compensation leave, nor indeed of any end of this treatment.

This crunch also differs from crunch time in a smaller studio in that it was not an emergency effort to save a project from failure. Every step of the way, the project remained on schedule. Crunching neither accelerated this nor slowed it down; its effect on the actual product was not measurable. The extended hours were deliberate and planned; the management knew what they were doing as they did it. The love of my life comes home late at night complaining of a headache that will not go away and a chronically upset stomach, and my happy supportive smile is running out.

No one works in the game industry unless they love what they do. No one on that team is interested in producing an inferior product. My heart bleeds for this team precisely BECAUSE they are brilliant, talented individuals out to create something great. They are and were more than willing to work hard for the success of the title. But that good will has only been met with abuse. Amazingly, Electronic Arts was listed #91 on Fortune magazine's "100 Best Companies to Work For" in 2003.

EA's attitude toward this -- which is actually a part of company policy, it now appears -- has been (in an anonymous quotation that I've heard repeated by multiple managers), "If they don't like it, they can work someplace else." Put up or shut up and leave: this is the core of EA's Human Resources policy. The concept of ethics or compassion or even intelligence with regard to getting the most out of one's workforce never enters the equation: if they don't want to sacrifice their lives and their health and their talent so that a multibillion dollar corporation can continue its Godzilla-stomp through the game industry, they can work someplace else.

But can they?

The EA Mambo, paired with other giants such as Vivendi, Sony, and Microsoft, is rapidly either crushing or absorbing the vast majority of the business in game development. A few standalone studios that made their fortunes in previous eras -- Blizzard, Bioware, and Id come to mind -- manage to still survive, but 2004 saw the collapse of dozens of small game studios, no longer able to acquire contracts in the face of rapid and massive consolidation of game publishing companies. This is an epidemic hardly unfamiliar to anyone working in the industry. Though, of course, it is always the option of talent to go outside the industry, perhaps venturing into the booming commercial software development arena. (Read my tired attempt at sarcasm.)

To put some of this in perspective, I myself consider some figures. If EA truly believes that it needs to push its employees this hard -- I actually believe that they don't, and that it is a skewed operations perspective alone that results in the severity of their crunching, coupled with a certain expected amount of the inefficiency involved in running an enterprise as large as theirs -- the solution therefore should be to hire more engineers, or artists, or designers, as the case may be. Never should it be an option to punish one's workforce with ninety hour weeks; in any other industry the company in question would find itself sued out of business so fast its stock wouldn't even have time to tank. In its first weekend, Madden 2005 grossed $65 million. EA's annual revenue is approximately $2.5 billion. This company is not strapped for cash; their labor practices are inexcusable.

The interesting thing about this is an assumption that most of the employees seem to be operating under. Whenever the subject of hours come up, inevitably, it seems, someone mentions 'exemption'. They refer to a California law that supposedly exempts businesses from having to pay overtime to certain 'specialty' employees, including software programmers. This is Senate Bill 88. However, Senate Bill 88 specifically does not apply to the entertainment industry -- television, motion picture, and theater industries are specifically mentioned. Further, even in software, there is a pay minimum on the exemption: those exempt must be paid at least $90,000 annually. I can assure you that the majority of EA employees are in fact not in this pay bracket; ergo, these practices are not only unethical, they are illegal.

I look at our situation and I ask 'us': why do you stay? And the answer is that in all likelihood we won't; and in all likelihood if we had known that this would be the result of working for EA, we would have stayed far away in the first place. But all along the way there were deceptions, there were promises, there were assurances -- there was a big fancy office building with an expensive fish tank -- all of which in the end look like an elaborate scheme to keep a crop of employees on the project just long enough to get it shipped. And then if they need to, they hire in a new batch, fresh and ready to hear more promises that will not be kept; EA's turnover rate in engineering is approximately 50%. This is how EA works. So now we know, now we can move on, right? That seems to be what happens to everyone else. But it's not enough. Because in the end, regardless of what happens with our particular situation, this kind of "business" isn't right, and people need to know about it, which is why I write this today.

If I could get EA CEO Larry Probst on the phone, there are a few things I would ask him. "What's your salary?" would be merely a point of curiosity. The main thing I want to know is, Larry: you do realize what you're doing to your people, right? And you do realize that they ARE people, with physical limits, emotional lives, and families, right? Voices and talents and senses of humor and all that? That when you keep our husbands and wives and children in the office for ninety hours a week, sending them home exhausted and numb and frustrated with their lives, it's not just them you're hurting, but everyone around them, everyone who loves them? When you make your profit calculations and your cost analyses, you know that a great measure of that cost is being paid in raw human dignity, right?

Right?


===

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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-02 05:41 pm (UTC)

Rick Giolito

Yep, I work at EA for this squid. He's the VP for the EALA studio. This guy is terrible. Not only does he waltz around the studio like he single handedly puts together the titles we produce but he doesn't even look at people when he walks by. He acts like they don't exist. Actually some of us at the office have made a game of saying hi to him because it puts him off so much.
Near the end of our last project, as we're nearing beta and have already been crunching for 7 months, he announces happily that he's managed to secure us a slip! Wheee two more months of crunch! Never mind that the reason for this slip is that he can't stop adding major technologies and needlessly redesigning missions after we've already reached alpha. No he plays it off like he's our saving grace, that he put his neck on the line for us and now it's our last chance to prove that we're as talented as we say we are. "Kiss your wives and children goodbye for two months and get the job done", he says. (Really, that's a quote) "I've put my neck on the line for you guys but I've played my last hand. If you want to save my job, keep your foot on the gas and get the job done."

Actually Ricky, I quite enjoyed that little pep talk. So my options were, I could go home at reasonable hours from now on and that would guarantee you'd get fired? Sounds good to me.

You're dead weight my friend. I'd stay on that sabbatical if I were you.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-03 06:02 am (UTC)

Re: Rick Giolito

Man this is too true. No one respects that guy, how can management? The funny thing is that even if he read this he just wouldn't care. He has the right people fooled... it doesn't matter what his minions think!
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Re: Rick Giolito - (Anonymous) Expand
From: ravidrath
2004-12-02 07:06 pm (UTC)

Another Write-up in the Press...

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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-02 07:25 pm (UTC)

LIVE STOCK LIKE TREATMENT NOT LIMITED TO GAMING INDUSTRY - MY STORY (PART 1)

LIVE STOCK LIKE TREATMENT NOT LIMITED TO GAMING INDUSTRY - MY STORY (PART 1)

I found this letter thru an article on the front page of yesterday's Salon.com. Don't feel like taking the time to register if I don't have to, but I will identify myself as Ranndino.

The letter by the EA_spouse is incredibly well written and it has generated such mind boggling response because the kind of treatment of employees described in it is not limited to the game industry. Tech workers in other industries can very much relate.
A few years ago I was hired to work for a company called TWIInteractive, which is the multimedia (website dev) arm of the humongous IMG (International Management Group). IMG, for those who aren't familiar with it is a company that represents many of the most famous athletes and entertainment stars such as Tiger Woods, Heidi Klum, etc. Being young and somewhat idealistic I thought I hit the jackpot. I love sports and here was my chance to learn and grow in a company that worked on major sports web sites. My boss (an art director) who hired me turned out to be a great guy and at first everything was going well. Well, if you don't consider the salary that they gave me and them dragging their feet for 4 months before making me a permanent employee. I guess that should have been the first sign of trouble, but I enjoyed the work so much that I didn't really give it much thought.

After a few months real signs of trouble started to emerge. The tech director, a workaholic nutcase from South Africa, repeatedly clashed with my boss, the art director over who’s in charge of what. You see, the guy who had no college education or any experience in graphic design thought he could walk around suggesting to us things down to which colors to use, and how to draw lines. This went on for a while until my art director boss grew so frustrated that he quit a job that paid him six figures at the age of 28! I’m trying to keep this relatively short, so I won’t go into details, but you can imagine how bad it got that he would do that.

After the art director left things became hell for me. I was seen as his loyalist and the new art director was apparently told from the first day he was hired that I was a problem employee. No matter what I did it was never good enough. I was asked every 5 minutes what I was working on. Anyone who is a creative understands how incredibly counterproductive that was. Even if you’re not. It breaks the train of thought and the stress level that it produces becomes unbearable. Anyway, the workaholic tech director started putting me on projects that had little or nothing to do with what I was hired for. He would throw me into technical areas which I knew little or nothing about and gave me almost impossible deadlines. Being a pretty intelligent person I learned on the fly and managed to complete all the tasks on time. Were they happy? Nope? They kept picking on the tiniest imperfections in my site code and telling me that my performance was inadequate. This was unbelievable because I had no idea how to code when starting the projects. I was a purely creative graphic designer, yet I learned to code and produced sites in a matter of weeks and they would pick on bugs and tell me that I sucked ass. Needless to say that I felt as low as one gets. Here I was buried in books and blowing my brains out for weeks trying to get it done, got it done and was chastised for it.

On top of this I was called in numerous times into the office by either my new art director or tech director and told that I wasn’t being a good team player. Why? Because I refused to work insane hours and weekends. Just like many have said here I understood that when the project had to be done a crunch was acceptable, but not when it became an unofficial company policy.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-02 07:28 pm (UTC)

REASONS FOR SUCH TREATMENT AND WHY WE NEED UNIONS (PART 2)

The reason I have decided to post is that this type of crap is not limited to one industry and is extremely widespread. Tech and creative workers need unions. I know that for some union is a dirty word. There are a lot of abuses and problems with unions, but that’s human nature. Nothing is ever perfect in this world because we are not perfect. There will always be assholes who will take advantage of situations. Having said that unions are simply organizations that give workers power. To resist the corporate machine on an individual basis is impossible. Many have said that individuals should just all resist these crappy practices and demand to be treated like human beings. But that is what a union essentially is. A bunch of individuals who organize and resist together. There needs to be a force that balances out the situation because currently the corporations have all the power and are driven to squeeze out their employees like oranges until no juices come out and throw them away like dried peels. The system is such that people at the top care mainly about the profits and share holders. As profits go up they have more money to spend on their weekend homes and sports cars. As profits go up, so do the shares and that gives the people at the top even more money to stuff their pockets with. The best way to squeeze out as much profit as possible is not to hire more people when needed, but to squeeze out unpaid overtime out of the current employees. Why hire another programmer at $50K when you can make a programmer you already have who makes $50K work for free for nearly the same amount of time the new guy would fill? And so what if the current employee’s life becomes shit and he grows suicidal? If he quits or kills himself there is always a young kid who will fill in. He might not be as good or experienced, but he’s willing to sacrifice his life to fill the pockets of the fat cats with millions.

I’m not in favor of socialism. I have lived in a socialist country and it sucks ass, but the unions are the only answer to this problem. As long as corporations are driven to squeeze out as much profit as they can out of their workforce they won’t stop. And it’s only getting worse. As the competition increases and other companies make their employees slave for longer hours ones that don’t find themselves unable to compete. They either follow suit or go out of business. At one point this will result in no good alternatives for the white collar workforce as it did for the blue collar workforce decades ago.

My girlfriend’s grandfather came to this country from Italy without any education. He learned the iron working trade and thanks to a powerful iron workers union he made a fortune. Yes, a simple iron worker without higher education earns $50-60 an hour and the benefits that they get most IT workers can only dream of. To think that corporations will wake up and realize that they are creating an extremely large number of very unhappy people and start playing nice is extremely naïve. Also, like I said blaming managers or even corporations themselves is short sighted. The system as it is right now forces them to operate in such manner. If a manager doesn’t treat his underlings like live stock he gets canned. If a corporation has ethical values they get squeezed out of the market by asshole companies. It becomes a matter of simple economic pressure.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-02 08:42 pm (UTC)

This is why Unions were created!

Corporate America will not become more "worker friendly" if the workers do not force them to do it. At the turn of the century, people fought and died for the right to have an 8 hour workday and a six day workweek. Seriously - people died! So nothing is going to happen until the workers stop thinking of themselves as individuals and start thinking of themselves as a force - a workforce that has power of its own that must be used to better working conditions.

Forget the Overtime law - that is virtually gutted by the Bush Administration- what your husband needs to do - and do quickly - is band together with his other workers and form a strong, united union. It is not easy to do and it often results in months if not years of uncertainty but it is the only answer. California law does not limit work hours, but union contract CAN. It is the ONLY thing that can. The only thing that can prevent a company from making a virtual slave out of you is a union contract. And it is not just for blue collar workers anymore. Lawyers, nurses, professors and other professionals have done it, but only by setting aside their ego and embracing collective action. So, if this really means a lot to you and your husband, you'll start contacting unions and speaking to his co-workers and take back his right to have a life. If he doesn't they could be moving you to a company town in the near future.

Sorry if I came off like a ranting communist but I do feel bad for you and other workers like your husband, but somewhere along the road the American workers decided they didn't need unions anymore, and now they work 100 hour weeks. Maybe its time to revisit the issue. Best of luck.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-03 07:44 pm (UTC)

Re: This is why Unions were created!

Absolutely agree... This is very much along the lines of what I said in my long ass post (Ranndino).

I gave an example of my girlfriend's grandfather, a simple iron worker, who thanks to a strong union made a fortune. Her mother is a nurse (she's studying to become one as well). She was just telling me today that she got a look at her mom's paycheck the other day. $84,000 with a month to go!!! Working 36 hours a week! Her mother works 3 days a week, 12-hour night shifts. That was her choice because this way she gets 4 days completely off and they pay even more for night shifts.

So, let's summarize. With a month to go in the year she has made $84,000 working 3 nights a week and enjoying her 4 days off, every week. Anyone still think Unions are a bad idea?

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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-02 10:47 pm (UTC)

EA Work Ethic

I used to work at EA and started there when it was a different company, we got bonus for a job well done and comp time. I was there when they crossed over to a billion in sales. It was a glorious time but then things changes. The place became very management heavy, and the OT started to crank.
I was 40 years old and sleeping under my desk to final a game. Shortly after I quit I have never looked back, some call the org, the evil empire...at times thats not to far from the truth.
I am glad for the op and the credits, but I'm very glad to have my life back.

Many senior artists and programmers are leaving as we speak....
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-03 03:49 am (UTC)

Re: EA Work Ethic

I am a senior artist looking to leave.


All true all true
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Re: EA Work Ethic - (Anonymous) Expand
[User Picture]From: master_mean
2004-12-03 12:17 am (UTC)
Wow..I never really liked EA, but now, they're up there with Nike as one of the most evil corporations out there. Thanks for telling me. It was a fool's dream to work at Bungie for a while.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-03 12:51 am (UTC)

Bungie isn't EA

Bungie is owned by Microsoft. Don't give up the dream!
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-03 12:55 am (UTC)

What has EA said about all this?

Curent EA employees,
have you heard anything official from your company? I can't imagine they don't know about these blogs and can't beleive they haven't tried to send an email or meetings explaining their position. I would be extremely upset if I worked there and after 2-3 weeks there hadn't been any explenation or viewpoint offered up by the senior staff/CEO's on how they want to correct some of these issues and truly make it "the number one people company". Do they want art unions, and programming unions?

spz
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-03 02:56 am (UTC)

You can't rape the willing

Wow, I've never heard anything like this before - what the heck happened to the american spirit, creative thinking and inginuity? In reading through the comments to this article, I keep running across the same term 'White Collar Slavery', but this term is an oxymoron, an impossibility. You cannot be a slave unless you are being forced to work. An average salary for a programmer (according to salary.com for a level III programmer (videogame programmers aren't crappy)) in playa del rey (right next to ea) is 77k/year. You can get a car for $5000 instead of the new lexus, and probably get your total expenses down to 30k/year - a lot of families live on that, which leaves you w/ 40k/year. Take that, throw it in the bank, and you have at least six months to start your own company. If your entire team is doing this, they're all probably unhappy - odds are if they were a good team for EA, they'll be a good core for a small software dev company. The whole idea that 20 people can't start a game company is bull. Scaled composites put a _GUY_ _IN_ _SPACE_ with 25 people.

Have some pluck, have some balls, and quit, start your own company, change jobs, change fields, get your self fired so you get unemployment, do something. A friend of mine put it best: 'You can't rape the willing.' - if it's too much to bear: quit. If it's not, shut up and deal with it, you make a boatload of money, and there are plenty of other options. No one is MAKING you work at EA. No one is MAKING you work for ANYONE. This is america, dammit. If you can't find an employer to suit you, become your own damn employer.

Lollygaggers.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-07 05:20 pm (UTC)

$40K a year, in California?! Sweetie, you know nothing

IIRC, a lot of these companies operate in CA, where the price of living is SKY HIGH. That $77K doesn't go far at all here in sunny SoCal. If you want a house instead of a dinky apartment (and believe me, I'm paying $1,400 a month for a plain little two-bedroom in a dead-ordinary rundown suburb, I'm NOT talking Hollywood) you're completely fucked unless you make six digits. Which is why we're moving out of state soon. But if you're in the local game industry, there's nowhere to go. :/
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-03 05:17 am (UTC)

EA's SweatShop

Wow! I am a an artist who is starting to lose my chops because for years I've applied for jobs with these games and they refuse to even talk to me. So for me this seems like poetic justice. They will eventually get theirs, but you guys are going to have to create some kind of solidarity. You need a union.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-03 06:05 am (UTC)

RE: This is why Unions were created!

Why is that this board is so infested with socialist, marxist and other left-wing extremists hell bent on "unions" and "sticking it to the man." These repeated calls to arms by liberal extremists have really turned me away from what was initially a very noble cause. It simply confirms what I've suspected, that Unions are a hallmark of socialist theorists, neo-Marxist "economists" and other left wing extremists. I'm just waiting for the post from the "Dean Nation" calling all their left leaning brothers together. Unions have a very checkered past and it sickens that individuals are exploiting workers concerns to promote a political agenda.

Unions won't work in the video game business, and if it does, all be damned if it's carried under the banner of the left leaning hucksters that keep posting. Keep the political agendas at home, shut the fuck up, you're ruining the cause.

How typical to exploit real concerns to promote political agendas. Keep it the fuck away, concentrate on the issues and stop beating us over the head with "unionize" bullshit. It's not the 1940's. I don't want fucking "Red" teamsters slapping each other other the back. We're developers not Richard Gere sympathizers you pathetic fuck.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-03 09:33 am (UTC)

Re: This is why Unions were created!

Someones been listening to too much Rush Limbaugh.
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-03 06:43 am (UTC)

Invitation to a party...

Sounds like a CEO and a gagle of managers need an invitation to an Iraqi beheading party.....I'll grab the bucket....
Maybe on a highway somewhere, a shot could go off. If it hits one, who's gonna give a sh*t????
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-03 06:55 am (UTC)

Career change?

Hey, the military is hiring..... they'll be needing some fresh fodder for the new year..
They don't pay what the "game industry" does, but hey, you get to shoot people, right? Just think of them as former managers.... hell, why go to Iraq to do it... Do it NOW, while they don't expect it. I mean it. We've got to start assasinating these assholes. They don't deserve to be on our planet. Don't be a pussy, kill a manager for mom......
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-03 07:06 am (UTC)

Unions???

The cops and firemen have unions.... airline pilots. Even doctors have 'em... Are they a bunch of commies... Well, ok, but they've still got unions, and make more than your average putz. Especially the quacks..
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From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-03 07:29 am (UTC)

ha! tell your SO to try working as a tester for EA

if you think his experience was bad, try life as a tester.. EA calls it "Quality Assurance". i was a member of QA for over a year, and we suffered just as much, if not more. at least he was on salary and got benefits. we got squat, and had to work way longer hours than anybody in production. our crunch time never stopped. if you were in production, you usually worked on a particular title, like say NASCAR Thunder or Madden. when that gamed shipped, your job slowed down for a month or two, then production slowly ramped back up to crunch times again. if you worked in QA, you had a crunch time every other week, as tester work on multiple titles throughout the year, as it is common for EA to have one studio test, and one studio build. the studio i worked for, Tiburon, only had 3-4 official titles per season, but we tested for several other studios. so basically you could come off of the crunch of one title, only to be tossed directly into crunch time on another. you can argue that hourly paid employees get overtime, but that doesn't mean squat after taxes. we worked for $8 an hour, with time and a half for overtime. i remember a few 17 hour or more days,with plenty of days exceeding 10hours and when i got my check, the taxes ate most of it away... that and $20 games were all we got, oh and that great credit on a title if you managed to meet the requirements for being on that, which meant you had to work on the title for at least a month to even be listed... no benefits or company vacations for us.
QA is the real EA sweatshop.
the make you sign away your rights when you start working there, and give you the false idea that maybe if you kiss enough butt, you might be considered for some lowly production job, even though everyone i worked with had graduated from colleges with related degrees that should have put them in production, but the real truth is that if you work as a tester, you'll almost never make it to production, because if you're any good they just want to keep you there.
and god forbid you speak out against your superiors. that's a sure fire way to get canned. if you're not prepared to be a yesman that kisses your supervisors butt 24hrs a day, don't apply at EA.
they made us sign a paper that basically gave them the right to fire us whenever they want for whatever reason. this came after several of my friends slaved away for years as testers (which are all temporary employees except for the supervisors "leads"), to get that full time status, only to have that goal shattered by a piece of paper.
the turnover rate for testers is far higher than that of production. EA will say that that's because it's cheap labor and they have to, b/c testers are usually college students and are "seasonal". this is only true for about 10-15 percent of the QA staff, as everyone who manages to get past their 3 stage interview process wants to keep their job, especially after working 80 hour weeks.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-03 09:42 am (UTC)

Re: ha! tell your SO to try working as a tester for EA

Hmmm...on the games I have worked on for EA, dev has always been around long after test went home...and I have worked FAR more hours as a programmer than I ever did as a tester.

Since when does merely having any kind of degree mean you deserve to be "put" anywhere?

I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but EVERYONE pays taxes.

Seasonal or not...that's not the point. It's nearly completely unskilled labor. It doesn't require anything more than a high school diploma, no matter how many of your fellow testers had degrees.

The overtime sucks, but at least you got overtime for it. You found the workload and conditions sucked, you didn't like it, and you quit. I would recommend the same to anyone that feels that way.

If you really are a "struggling digital media artist" and you're any good, why bother getting a job as a tester at all? Why not just apply on your artistic merit?
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
From: poe_diddley
2004-12-03 07:55 am (UTC)

QA is the real EA sweatshop

if you think his experience was bad, try life as a tester.. EA calls it "Quality Assurance". i was a member of QA for over a year, and we suffered just as much, if not more. at least he was on salary and got benefits. we got squat, and had to work way longer hours than anybody in production. our crunch time never stopped. if you were in production, you usually worked on a particular title, like say NASCAR Thunder or Madden. when that gamed shipped, your job slowed down for a month or two, then production slowly ramped back up to crunch times again. if you worked in QA, you had a crunch time every other week, as tester work on multiple titles throughout the year, as it is common for EA to have one studio test, and one studio build. the studio i worked for, Tiburon, only had 3-4 official titles per season, but we tested for several other studios. so basically you could come off of the crunch of one title, only to be tossed directly into crunch time on another. you can argue that hourly paid employees get overtime, but that doesn't mean squat after taxes. we worked for $8 an hour, with time and a half for overtime. i remember a few 17 hour or more days,with plenty of days exceeding 10hours and when i got my check, the taxes ate most of it away... that and $20 games were all we got, oh and that great credit on a title if you managed to meet the requirements for being on that, which meant you had to work on the title for at least a month to even be listed... no benefits or company vacations for us.
QA is the real EA sweatshop.
the make you sign away your rights when you start working there, and give you the false idea that maybe if you kiss enough butt, you might be considered for some lowly production job, even though everyone i worked with had graduated from colleges with related degrees that should have put them in production, but the real truth is that if you work as a tester, you'll almost never make it to production, because if you're any good they just want to keep you there.
and god forbid you speak out against your superiors. that's a sure fire way to get canned. if you're not prepared to be a yesman that kisses your supervisors butt 24hrs a day, don't apply at EA.
they made us sign a paper that basically gave them the right to fire us whenever they want for whatever reason. this came after several of my friends slaved away for years as testers (which are all temporary employees except for the supervisors "leads"), to get that full time status, only to have that goal shattered by a piece of paper.
the turnover rate for testers is far higher than that of production. EA will say that that's because it's cheap labor and they have to, b/c testers are usually college students and are "seasonal". this is only true for about 10-15 percent of the QA staff, as everyone who manages to get past their 3 stage interview process wants to keep their job, especially after working 80 hour weeks.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-03 09:30 am (UTC)

BUG REPORT

BUG: Post is posted twice. Posts should be posted only once.

-Tester
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
Re: BUG REPORT - (Anonymous) Expand
NEED MORE INFO - (Anonymous) Expand
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-03 11:32 am (UTC)

Spouse isnt the only one...

I totally understand what you are going through, I dated someone in the gaming business and he had to take on those same kinds of issues, Even me, who is in a differnt business completely have to deal with simmilar problems, except I get paid overtime, but thats only because the company went through lay-offs to prepare for more "money-wise" situations. So instead of having a decent amount of people getting no overtime, we have too little people who get to be overworked and with a minimal amount of overtime, yay! And because the corporation I work with is so large they send out newsletters from the high up CEOs and such, and the main company controller actually said that since we should expect to never see a decent raise ever again, and no company perks or bonuses or 'thank you's for the hard work employees put it (direct quote) "We should just be happy that we aren't unemployed"..... Yeah, what kind of person with five differnt houses go and tell people who actually have to go into the office seven days a week ten to twelve hour shifts that hey.... you could just not have a job. Now thats respect for making someone millions.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-03 04:20 pm (UTC)

How to stop this madness now...

Well, it's no use going to a place like 60 minutes or, especially cnbc... They get a bundle of advertising dollars from this place, and that lap dog surely won't bite a big hand that feeds it.
Time to understand that the u.s. gov isn't going to help either. Uncle Sam has changed, almost like one of the games they create, into our big brother. It's time for U S citizens to arm up and prepare for the coming police state. It won't be a long wait, I promise....
Good luck suckers, I'm shootin' my way out of here when I have to, until they get me.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-03 04:33 pm (UTC)

Quit now! not tomorrow!!!

Why do you losers stay there? I just don't get it. For the "prestige"? There is none, face it! You're losers, and should quit being pussies. Bitch slap your supervisors, and tell them all to go fuck themselves. It'll feel great when you look at yourself in the mirror the next time.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: chgowiz
2004-12-03 05:24 pm (UTC)

Re: Quit now! not tomorrow!!!

That's constructive. Have you had to pay a mortgage? Have you been unemployed for 6 months or longer? Have you watched your kids go hungry or struggle to pay the utilities while you slave away at some pissant job just to try and keep from going homeless?

Try living in reality.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-03 05:40 pm (UTC)

What it is like to live on the other side...

ELECTRONIC ARTS

1450 FASHION ISLAND BLVD.
SAN MATEO, CA 94404
TEL 415 571 7171


[LOGO]


September 9, 1998


Rusty Rueff
181-12 Turn of River Road
Stamford, CT 06905


Dear Rusty:

I am pleased to offer you a regular full-time position as Senior Vice President
Human Resources reporting to me. Your annual base salary will be $240,000 with a
50% target bonus. The bonus will be guaranteed at 100% of target in the fiscal
year ending March 31, 1999, and 75% of target in the fiscal year ending March
31, 2000.

I will recommend to the Board of Directors that you be granted a Non-qualified
Option to purchase 70,000 shares of Electronic Arts common stock in accordance
with our Stock Option Plan. This grant will vest at a rate of 2% per month over
a 50 month period commencing with your hire date. Your unvested equity position
will be reviewed on an annual basis in conjunction with the EA executive stock
option program.

Electronic Arts will provide you with a $2,500 per month (net of taxes) housing
allowance for a three-year period. We agree to pay the difference between your
acquisition cost and the sale price on your property at 181-12 Turn of River
Road if the selling price is less than the initial purchase price of $612,500.
In addition, Electonic Arts will be responsible for all normal and reasonable
relocation costs associated with moving to Northern California.

Your employment with Electronic Arts is for an indefinite term. In other words,
the employment relationship is "at will" and you have the right to terminate
that employment relationship at any time. Also, although I hope that you will
remain with us and be successful here, Electronic Arts must, and does retain the
right to terminate the employment relationship at any time. Should you be
terminated without cause prior to March 31, 2000, you will receive one year's
salary plus bonus as severence.

This offer assumes that you have the legal right to work in the United States
and can submit appropriate proof. If you accept the offer, please so indicate by
signing this letter where indicated and returning it to my attention.

Electronic Arts' mission is to make fun software for consumers and to help
interactive entertainment become a part of everyday life. To play a leading role
in this new industry, EA needs a dedicated team of pioneers with vision, a
passion for quality, a willingness to innovate and a desire to achieve great
things while vigilantly maintaining our integrity. I would be delighted to have
you join us.

Sincerely,

/s/ Larry Probst

Larry Probst
Chaiman & CEO
Electronic Arts


Accepted: /s/ Rusty Rueff
--------------------

Date: 9/18/98
-------------------------





September 17, 1998


Rusty Rueff
181-12 Turn of River Road
Stamford, CT 06905


Dear Rusty:

This will confirm our discussion on Tuesday, September 15. EA will provide you
with a one-time $50,000 (gross) signing bonus to help offset the expected loss
on improvements made to your current residence, and the temporary loss of income
you will experience in conjunction with Patti's resignation from Pepsi.

We also agree to extend vesting on your stock option grant for a period of six
months if you are terminated without cause prior to March 31, 2000.

EA agrees to provide a relocation program similar to the Frito-Lay plan with the
exception that we will not be responsible for any loan points nor will we
provide one month's salary in conjunction with your move to Northern California.

I am thrilled that you have decided to join Electronic Arts, and very much look
forward to working with you. Would you please acknowledge acceptance of the
offer by signing in the space below and returning to my attention at your
earliest convenience. Thank you.


Sincerely,

/s/ Larry Probst
Larry Probst
Chairman & CEO


Accepted: ___________________________________________

Date: _______________________________________________

(http://contracts.onecle.com/ea/rueff.emp.1998.09.09.shtml)
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-03 05:42 pm (UTC)

Rusty Rueff's contract.

Bear in mind that this is a little over six years old... so that means he's making alot more than he was at this point, and has accumulated a great deal of wealth because of all of the benefits outlined in the contract.

So here is a question: What does someone making that much money, with those exorbitant benefits need a $2,500 per month housing allowance for???

I mean really.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
From: ravidrath
2004-12-03 06:52 pm (UTC)

EA Responds: Leaked Internal Memo...

Kotaku, a site that's been following this pretty close, got their hands on a leaked EA memo.

http://www.kotaku.com/gaming/business//ea-promises-changes-in-leaked-internal-memo-026800.php

-Peter
(Reply) (Thread)
From: ea_spouse
2004-12-03 08:15 pm (UTC)

Re: EA Responds: Leaked Internal Memo...

Very interesting, thank you for posting this. I hadn't heard about Kotaku before this link.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-03 07:56 pm (UTC)

Two Specific Union Examples

Ranndino here again. Earlier I've posted a long, four part message that described my experience in a related industry and then looked at why the working conditions have become so bad for so many people. I finished my argument by saying that Unions are essential for tech employees.

I gave one conrete example of my girlfriend's grandfather, a simple iron worker who came here from Italy with no education, and who thanks to a strong union made a fortune. As an iron worker building all kinds of objects like offices, supermarkets, etc. he got paid $60 per hour with overtime (time and a half and double for weekends) for anything more than 40 hours a week. On top of that was a heap of incredible benefits.

I would like to give another example. My girlfriend's mother is a nurse. My gf was just telling me today that she got a look at her mom's paycheck the other day. $84,000 with a month to go!!! Working 36 hours a week! Her mother works 3 days a week, 12-hour night shifts. That was her choice because this way she gets 4 days completely off and they pay even more for night shifts.

So, let's summarize. With a month to go in the year she has made $84,000 working 3 nights a week and enjoying her 4 days off, every week. She also pretty much makes her own schedule.

Anyone still think Unions are a bad idea?
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-04 07:09 am (UTC)

Re: Two Specific Union Examples

Yes, I do.

Take the typical auto industry example from the 80s, where people screwing bolts on all day earned $25 an hour...and we were promptly trounced by foreign companies who were still allowed to pay their workers wages more in line with their level of skill.

Unions will also throw a yoke of rigidity on an otherwise creative industry, and leave us wide open to work side-by-side with lazy people who have been around forever but haven't worked more than ten hours' worth of work per week in years because they have achieved "seniority" and can't be fired for it.

If you want a union, go be a nurse or an iron worker. Keep your bullshit, self-serving, greedy-ass unions away from my job...I make plenty of money for the work I do and I have no qualms with my working conditions.

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-03 09:47 pm (UTC)

Sounds familiar

I used to work for a small game company where we were worked increasingly harder until I eventually got fired for taking a day off after six months of nonstop work. And I mean nonstop -- not a single day off, working at least 10 hours a day. There were weeks where I spent less than 10 hours outside the office. My longest "workday" was 137 hours, where I didn't even get to stop for a nap for that long. I arrived at work at 10 AM on Friday and was not allowed to leave until Wednesday afternoon.

If you bring up the exemption issue, you tend to get hit with "if we had to pay you guys overtime, we'd go out of business. Do you want that to happen?"

That's why I quit the game industry and became a technical writer and DTS engineer. The hours are much, much, much better.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: unionjosh
2004-12-04 01:29 am (UTC)

Re: Sounds familiar

The longest I had heard of was 3 days and that guy had a blanket wrapped around him and was shaking. Your talking about 5 days! You're lucky you got out alive. Good for you.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
From: bwingb
2004-12-03 11:06 pm (UTC)

Umm, Rusty...

I read the "leaked memo" and it's all very cosy and it's a fairly good start, BUT-

I see _no mention_ of any ethics or sensitivity training in this p.r. release. I am glad to see you are thinking of actually training your employees (and am still stumped as to how it took so long to figure this one out), but some serious measures need to be taken if you are going to address the corruption that's creating a lot of the overtime in the first place. You need to weed out the "managers" who are creating problems to keep themselves on the payroll, people; the ones who are focusing all their energies into setting up the _real_ talent to look bad so they can keep taking the credit. These sociopaths are costing yours and many other people's companies millions in revenue, and society at large is suffering from their unhealthy influence. It all trickles down, you know. NEVER should sociopathic behavior be rewarded.

I also think that if you are serious as a company, you will encourage an ongoing discourse with some kind of organized body of employees. An intra-company union would be less adversarial than what many here are suggesting and also may be the only way you can prevent the forming of an unaffiliated union here.

Given that things had to get this bad, and that you continue to make excuses for mindblowing oversights here, we are not sure we trust you all with fostering an objective and communicative environment there. But please KNOW that as a major economic and cultural force, it is EA's DUTY as an employer to respect first and foremost the human rights of ALL the people it employs, and thus should only hire respectable people. Your resources are abundant, but only wisdom will allow you to see how to properly employ these resources. An you know. that's not something you can fake.

When you begin to KNOW that the need to share a GENUINE RESPECT for life is the ONLY REASON to want power, then you may begin to truly blossom and deserve as a company. And when others see you at your brightest, they too will see the wisdom of mutual respect and true communication.
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-06 06:03 am (UTC)

Re: Umm, Rusty...

I wonder how fast Rusty would respond if documents relating to games were leaked out....I bet the company could find a quick solution for that....
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread) (Expand)
From: bwingb
2004-12-03 11:27 pm (UTC)

To clear up any misunderstandings:

By respectable, I mean the following:

ADJECTIVE:1. Meriting respect or esteem; worthy. 2. Of or appropriate to good or proper behavior or conventional conduct. 3. Of moderately good quality: respectable work.

And under NO circumstances do I mean the following:

QUOTATION:Respectable means rich, and decent means poor. I should die if I heard my family called decent.

ATTRIBUTION:Thomas Love Peacock (1785–1866), British author. Lady Clarinda, in Crotchet Castle, ch. 3 (1831).

Especially since recent business trends have made many honest people too poor to impress on a superfluous level. We all need to learn how to recognize and reward the inner human qualities which promote excellence. Enough with the bling bling, already!
(Reply) (Thread)
From: (Anonymous)
2004-12-04 01:24 am (UTC)

$8.50/hour for "independent contractors" in customer support.

I had a friend who worked for EA in "customer support" a little while back... they hired him as an "independent contractor" (non W-2) for $8.50 an hour (which was barely minimum wage, once you account for the self-employment taxes he had to pay), and let him go just a few months later. It was made very clear to him (and everyone else hired with him) from the beginning that he shouldn't expect to be there long, that it was unlikely he'd be there even six months, and that this was deliberate policy on EA's part. This was the first bite of work he'd had in months, so he took it anyway... even though it was an hour drive each way from where he lived.

This is despicable. EA treats these people like a disposable commodity. My assumption is that they don't want to risk having the government categorize them as an "employee", with all the benefits that entails (ala the Microserfs who won their class action suit). Which he really was... he didn't set his own hours, he didn't supply his own equipment, he used EA's equipment and was trained by other EA staff, etc.

This is a far greater scandal, in my opinion, than any abuses heaped on at least formally employeed staffers who receive something approaching a livable wage.
(Reply) (Thread)
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